After listening to a couple of other novels by Elizabeth Scott on audio, I decided to go the old fashioned way and actually read her latest novel, "Between Here and Forever." In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll say that I’m not the target audience for Ms. Scott’s novels, but I have found the audio books to be a nice distraction while doing other things. Her female characters struck me as flawed but authentic characters.
And then there’s "Between Here and Forever."
Maybe the experience of listening to the audio novels hid the flaws in Scott’s other works. Or it could be that "Between Here and Forever" is just a bit too much of a good thing.
Abby’s the younger sister of Tess, the seemingly perfect girl who is every guy’s fantasy woman and every female’s best friend. Abby is in the shadow and it’s hurt her in the past, including getting romantically and physically entangled with a guy who is pursuing Tess. The flashbacks of how Abby got her heart stomped on are both awkward and pretty devastating. (The guy actually calls her by Tess’ name during an extremely intimate moment!).
But now Tess is in a coma from a car crash while heading home on New Year’s morning. Desperate for her sister to wake up, Abby clings to any shred of hope that her sister might magically wake-up and life will return to "normal." So when the hot guy named Eli comes into the room and Abby thinks she sees Tess’ eyes moving under her eyelids when Eli talks, Abby hatches a plan. She’ll have Eli talk to Tess and bring her out of the coma. Tess will then fall madly in love with Eli and everyone will live happily ever after.
It’s a bit like the premise to "While You Were Sleeping." It makes a little less sense here, as does the fact that Eli goes along with it. Of course, given where the story goes, maybe it’s not too big a shock that Eli goes along with it for motives other than bringing Tess back.
However, that’s not all that’s in play here. Before the car crash and the coma, Tess had a HUGE secret….only it’s the most obvious huge secret ever. This secret is one of the bigger sticking points of "Between Here and Forever" since it was fairly obvious what it was the first time Abby mentions it. <spoiler>Seems that Tess had a good friend in high school and they were very close….very, very close until they had a huge falling out and Tess was depressed a lot. Now Tess is in college and has her roommate…who seems to be around a whole lot of the time. Only the clues in the book are far less obvious than I’ve made them here.</spoiler>. The only thing I can figure is that Abby is so convinced for Tess’ perfectness that the reality of the situation doesn’t occur to her until it’s pretty much spelled out for her by Tess’s former best friend.
Along those lines, Scott seems to be hinting that there could be some connection between Tess’s wreck and her big secret. Or maybe I was looking too hard for something to be there that wasn’t or I’ve seen one too many melodramas.
Another big issue with the book is Abby herself. In previous novels, I was struck by the fact that Scott created flawed but authentic female characters. Again, this may go back to the narration of the books in audio form. But Abby seems stuck in a rut where she refuses to believe anyone would find her interesting in any way, shape or form for far too long in the story. At certain points in the book, you just want to reach into the page and shake Abby. Again, it’s not until someone points out that Abby is being just like Tess and alienating those who want to love her than any change occurs. And it happens so late in the story that it feels a bit tacked on and rushed.
It all adds up to a book that disappoints more than it should. Even though the ending leaves Abby in a better place, there are still too many threads and questions left open. It may be that was Scott’s point to make it feel like real life…but it’s just too bad the chapters leading up to that didn’t ring as authentic.